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  KD MAGAZINE! 
Posted: October 21, 2005 - י"ח בתשרי,
תשס"ו
 
 

Opportunity Lost
Rabbi Shea Hecht
About the Author
 
 

There are two Talmudic statements regarding silence. One is commonly translated as, "Silence is Golden." That's the one that most people know about. The other, lesser known saying, translates to "Silence implies agreement." If one observes something  - anything at all - and they voice no opinion about it, they are on some level agreeing to whatever is happening. The rationale for this statement is that they would undoubtedly say something if they didn't agree. 

Silence is Golden?

Being that there are two seemingly contradicting statements about the value of silence, a smart person must differentiate when one can be silent and when one cannot be silent. One must make a distinction when one is allowed to be passive about a situation and when one must be active; when one can accept the status quo and when one must be outspoken about an issue. 

The New York City school system should think about the consequences of their failure to invoke the correct "silence" adage. In a recent incident the school system failed to protect and educate children by invoking the maxim "Silence is golden" when they should have been loudly condemning the events that recently took place at a school in Brooklyn, NY. 

Ken and Lisa Brown moved their family from Oklahoma to Park Slope, NY. They moved so Ken, a native of Brooklyn, can find a job. The children were brought up in white Oklahoma and the parents who moved into racially diversified Prospect Heights, thought this is a chance for their children to not only learn about diversity, but live it. 

White Kid Go Home!

 

 

Silence implies Agreement! 

They enrolled their children in the all-black neighborhood school, Ebbets Field Middle School in Crown Heights,  hoping that their dreams would become reality. So much for their dreams of racial diversity.  The Brown family was called names, attacked, beaten, and chased into traffic by the other students in the school. Much like Linda Brown in1954 who needed the protection of the National Guard to go to an all white school, this white family, ironically also named Brown, could have used National Guard as protection in the all black school. 

How shameful! Here are white people who were ready to live Martin Luther King's dream of a diversified world without color and they were tormented and their lives were put at risk. How disgraceful that we have regressed to a time when children needed the help of the National Guard to integrate the Public School system! 

What's only more shameful is that until the family contacted news agencies with the story - no one listened to them. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. The teachers, the principals, and the department of education ignored their complaint. 

And when the story broke in the news the silence from the black leaders and the rest of the black community was deafening. Where were their protests? Their proclamations for a color blind society? Is their silence the silence of agreement? Children are astute. Even if adults can't differentiate between silence that is golden and silence which implies agreement, children usually can. 

Additionally, this recent story takes our city back one step in race relations. It's disappointing to me that while we think we're making progress in the area of tolerance among the races,  it seems we're going backward. What hurts even more is that this incident involved children and the silence from the adults implied agreement. 

Imagine the lesson the children in the school would have learned had they seen the same people who make public declarations and protest when one of their own is discriminated against, speak out in the face of this discrimination - regardless of the color of the players in the story. The silence of support made for a lost opportunity to show the children that we care about people regardless of color. That opportunity  is gone forever. How sad!

 

Read more articles by Rabbi Hecht

 

 
     
 
 
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